I often hear about the devastating loss of a flock from an unknown predator. In order to protect your poultry from future attacks, it’s important to learn how to identify their enemy. I found this article to help you learn how to identify a chicken predator by the specific evidence they leave behind.
Here in urban Phoenix there are two major enemies occupying the top spots on the list of chicken predators. The Coyote and two hawks in specific.
Coyotes aren’t usually seen during the day, sundown seems to be when they’re most active. They’re rather greedy too, seldom stopping at one bird. It’s not uncommon for them to wipe out half the backyard flock. Not only should the chicken yard be secured with a fence buried at least a foot in the ground. Concrete around the bottom as well would be ideal. Don’t assume that a six or seven foot block wall perimeter fence will keep out a coyote, it won’t.
If at all possible, having a raised chicken coop that can be completely closed up at night is the best way to protect your birds. The top of your chicken yard or run needs to be enclosed with aviary netting, because in-flight predators are next on the list of chicken enemies.
The Red Tail Hawk is not fussy about what time of day they snatch a chicken from the flock. These birds are very intelligent, so you’ll need to be creative if you’re going to outsmart them. They are indeed capable of carrying off an average size chicken.
Red Tailed Hawk
Below is our resident Harris Hawk, smaller, and not capable to carrying off an average sized chicken. However, be aware that these birds work as a team. Where there is one, there is usually two more. They are patient and relentless towards their goal, give them the slightest invitation and they will take it. Once they find a flock, they will circle over head, then sit on a nearby roof, or fence. This could go on for days while they intelligently calculate their plan of attack.
Harris Hawk in Phoenix, AZ
Don’t Forget this Guy…
There is at least one Bull snake slithering around our ranch. These predators are more of a problem with chicks or very young birds. Keep in mind when reaching to collect eggs that they have the same agenda! Look before you reach! They are harmless to humans, but they can be quite startling just for their size alone!
Remember, respect predators for their place in society, your job is not to prove where your place is on the food chain – it’s merely to prove you are smarter.
Last night a giant owl discovered my chicken yards. Camped overhead and intently scouting the property for a feast. Fortunately, all my hens are in fenced enclosures with aviary netting atop. I do have one bird at slight risk, my new little Sizzle hen. She lives in the barn with our burro, Beamer. Jojo sleeps in a box on top of the hay pile, and during the day stays close to her donkey pal. For once I’m glad Beamer’s opinions concerning intruders are so obnoxiously LOUD. I can only hope the ruckus by a crazy ass in the barn will discourage the owls quest.
The Harris Hawk Also Visits TBN… Again
These beautiful unwelcome birds of prey are not strangers to the ranch, but this is the first time they showed up in numbers. Perched high above the chicken yard, they watch, then circle, and slowly move in closer. Once they see the aviary netting they diligently look for an entry. When their efforts prove unsuccessful, they get extremely agitated and vocal.
Harris Hawks, Actual Birds
They’ve been easy to photograph because they aren’t the least bit intimidated by me. They stand their ground by making loud squawking noises, then spread their 3-4 ft wing span in an attempt to scare me… it works.
Harris Hawk, Actual Birds
Two years ago this Harris Hawk grabbed my 6 lb. Rhode Island Red hen, Martha. Luckily, we were able to rescue her. Thanks to our house cat Eddy who witnessed the near catastrophe from a bedroom window. The hawk swooped down from the roof and landed on top of Martha, Eddy had such a fit we looked out the window to see what was going on.
If the hawk wasn’t alone that day we never would have had time to save Martha, it must have struggled with the hen because of her size. Considering Harris Hawks usually work together, it was only a matter of time before the family would be invited to the feast. This is when the grueling task of hanging aviary netting began.
By no accident, this magnificent Harris Hawk stopped by the ranch this morning for yet another attempt to feast on my flock. His near success last time prompted me to hang aviary netting atop the chicken yard – and he looks pissed!
The handsome Harris hawk hunts cooperatively in pairs or trios. They surround their prey, and flush it for another to catch, or take turns chasing it.
MEASUREMENTS: The Harris’ Hawk has a body length of 18 – 24 inches, a wingspan of 3 1/2 – 4 feet, and weighs 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 pounds.
These hawks are found in semiarid habitats like savannas, chaparrals, scrub prairies, and mesquite and saguaro deserts. They range from the southwestern United States through Central America and into much of the drier habitats in South America.